Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

There comes a time in every man’s life, when he looks at what he has accomplished and accumulated to this point and what lies beyond, yet to pursue.  I found that when I hit the pivotal age of forty back in 2013, I took stock of my life at large and contemplated the brevity and breadth of it all.

guitar man 4

When you step back and take a look at your life from the outside, you can assess things at face value for what they are and what they have meant. (Photo: Hannu Eskelinen)

Forty is like a half-way marker.  It’s a brutal, unforgiving assessment of what is, for real.  It’s half-way to eighty, and eighty is an age that spells pretty much the end of one’s life here on Planet Earth.

I look back at the greatest, single influence on my pro wrestling career early on, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, the 16-time world heavyweight champion in our grand game of professional wrestling.  I recall the year 1990, when Flair was wrestling against Lex Luger at a WCW (World Championship Wrestling) pay-per-view event called WrestleWar ’90, that it also happened to be on his birthday.  The announcers tried to sell it as if it was Flair’s 40th birthday, when in reality, it was his 41st.  Nonetheless, I remember this detail speaking to me in volume even back then.

Ric Flair

When I started my pro wrestling career, I always asked myself “What would the ‘Naitch do?”

My old friend Chris Jericho currently wrestles for WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) as their US Champion, a belt that he will be defending against fellow Canadian grappler Kevin Owens next weekend on April 2nd at Wrestlemania 33.  Jericho is about three years my senior, now age 46.  He’s still doing well, hanging in there at the top of his game, arguably on one of his last runs with the company.  I applaud him.  He’s done very well, staying in shape and being able to connect with a changing audience and parlay his character across various generations of wrestling fans.  Yet, the end is drawing nigh, even for my old pal Y2J, simply based on age.

05

When I started my pro wrestling career in Calgary, Canada in 1994, they used to call me Jericho Jr.  Really, I didn’t mind.  Chris has done incredibly well in the business, and I’m happy for him.

Now, back to my original point: the things left to pursue in one’s chosen career or life path.  Tallinn, Estonia was such a waypoint for me personally this past weekend, the reason being that the event I took part in was a professional boxing card.

For the longest time, since the onset of my personal pro wrestling career, I’ve been fighting to defend the credibility of my fighting art, called professional wrestling.  There have always been detractors and shit-talkers and there always will be.  Still, I have always felt compelled to defend the honor of my business, which many see as a faux sport.  Like one of my early role models, Bret “Hitman” Hart, said in his autobiography some years back, “It seems as though I’ve been defending professional wrestling my entire life.”

Bret Hart vs Ric Flair

Bret Hart and Ric Flair slugging it out back in 1992 in the World Wrestling Federation.

For me, I’ve always prided myself on being legitimate when I step into the ring.  I take my sport seriously.  Regardless of how many people – some contemporaries included – have prostituted and bastardized our trade, for me, I’ve always strived to take the higher road of credibility.  I’ve gone the extra mile and fought tooth and nail to retain integrity in the believability of professional wrestling.  For me, it’s a matter of professional pride.

Being able to parlay my skills and take part in the Warrior Fight Series 1 event this past Saturday night in Tallinn, Estonia on March 25 was a true milestone for me.  It was history in the making.

Photo by Karli Saul 15

Photographer Karli Saul captures my ring entrance in Estonia in dazzling colors.

I was able to step into the ring in front of a virgin audience, engage them and win them over, making believers in the process, as I fought against a true athletic stud in Vladimir Kulakov of Russia.  This was an international match of epic proportions: the time-tested, world-traveled ring veteran against the younger Russian pro wrestling champion and a literal wolverine amongst his peers.  It was action and reaction, just as professional wrestling should be, in front of an audience that was there with an open mind, ready to make their initial assessment of the grappling game that is professional wrestling.  It was an ambitious endeavor to win over a new fan base and build where no one else had built or wandered before.

Photo by Martin Ahven (2)

Photographer Martin Ahven gets a good shot of the intensity of my match with Kulakov.

It is in this – venturing out into new, uncharted territories – that I take personal gratification in at this stage of my pro wrestling career.  I pioneered the business in Finland back in 2003 along with promoter Patrik Pesola, which launched an entire scene in the country.  My hallmark is set in stone as the most successful professional wrestler ever out of the Nordics and the northern sector of Europe.  My track record globally attests to that claim, and my championship reigns worldwide, along with my lengthy list of name opposition all around the world support that argument.  Now, I need a new mountain to climb.  A new challenge to contest.

Tallinn was the beginning of another chapter in my personal pro wrestling career.  I want to thank the promoter of EST Boxing, Mr. Grinkin, for having the faith to present pro wrestling on his card.  I want to also thank the Estonian media at large for covering the match to the degree that it has received media attention, which you can see e.g. from the link below:

http://sport.delfi.ee/news/voitlussport/poks/delfi-video-esmakordselt-eestis-ameerika-wrestlingu-sou-naerutas-tondiraba-publikut?id=77670846

Every one of us has the chance to build our own legacy in whatever our chosen endeavor is.  The true question is, how much heart do you really have to pursue your ambitions and goals, turning your dreams into a reality?

Life is short.  Make yours spectacular.

It’s been a good two-and-a-half years plus since I last wrestled in Germany, but that gets rectified tomorrow night in Wittorf, Deutschland!

dwa-harley-night-2016

It’s DWA (Deutsche Wrestling Allianz) Harley Night XVI – Double or Nothing!  Let’s see who ends up facing “The Rebel” tomorrow night…

Man, this one has been a long time in the coming… on Friday, Nov. 18, I will travel to Randers, Denmark to take on my old, storied Danish rival, Chaos, inside of a 16-foot high steel cage!

sb-vs-chaos

Chaos and I have an extensive past as adversaries, stemming back to 2009.  We have spilled each others blood, beaten each other black and blue and done a lot of damage to one another.  Both of us represent the veteran guard of our respective pro wrestling cultures in Denmark and Finland, making this a feud of Baltic and Nordic proportions.  We are literally the standard-bearers of our trade in our respective countries.  Two warring leader wolves, looking to out-do the other.

dsc_3546

In 2009, the Street Fight match Chaos and I had left both of us busted up.

Last summer in Denmark, the DPW (Danish Pro Wrestling) organization dropped my booked match against Chaos and instead, opted to put Ken Andersson of TNA fame (Mr. Kennedy in WWE) in my stead.  Then, they simply positioned me as a guest referee in that match, to add insult to injury.  Well, as you might expect, I took exception and laced into Chaos with a timely superkick at an opportune moment late in has match, leaving him a prone duck to be pinned by Anderson, as I counted to three.

Referee StarBuck

Annulling my match and putting me in there as a guest referee was not smart of DPW…

At Talvisota X (Winter War 10) in Helsinki, Finland this past March, I faced Chaos in a No-DQ grudge match, following the events in Randers last summer.  In Helsinki, Chaos beat me within in inch of my life, ambushing me from behind with a steel chair as I made my ring entrance.  I literally fought for my life inside of the ring that night, and managed to even walk away with a victory after delivering a devastating spike piledriver to my opponent.

TSX Chaos moonsault

Our last match was off the charts intense! (photo: Marko Simonen)

Now, on November 18, things come full-circle.  Chaos and I lock horns inside of an unforgiving steel cage on his turf in Denmark.  Both of us will fight like dogs, I am assured of that.  I know things will get violent and I am prepared to sweat, bleed and pay the price, to quote the legendary “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, so that I will be able to walk out of that cage with my hand raised in victory.

Chaos, you asked for the beating you are about to receive this coming Friday!

respekt

On the 28th of May, I returned to Russia, my 20th country in pro wrestling, to face “Big Sexy Papa” Ruslan in a No-DQ rematch from our February showdown for IWF this year in Moscow.  In our first bout against one another, Ruslan not only got beaten good and proper by Yours Truly, he also suffered a concussion during our match.

This time around, Ruslan had three months to get into shape and man-up, since he wanted some retribution on me, especially after I took his girl, Nadja, for a twirl after it was all said and done and he was left laying in defeat.

A week ago, I had Ruslan battered and bloody, administering a whooping to remember, when all of a sudden, his girl Nadja got up all panicked and whimpering on the ring apron.  I have to admit, that my concentration was thrown for a loop, because I had no idea what she had in mind.  I got up in her grill and had a few choice words with her when she suddenly slapped me out of the blue!  In my flustered response, I stumbled backward, allowing Ruslan to cradle my very sweaty body with a schoolboy pin for the surprise victory!

I simply couldn’t believe what had happened!  Ruslan was down for the count, all but left for dead, and suddenly a timely assist from his girlfriend saved his hide.  Well, you can bet your wrestling-loving arse, that I’m not going to let this one rest.  I have challenged “Big Sexy Papa” one more time, to a Hardcore match, if he has the balls to accept!

As we wait for the verdict, here is a stellar gallery of photos from our latest encounter…

Just a week back I wrestled in Russia, which was a huge landmark opportunity for me.  In doing so, I finally capped off 20 countries in pro wrestling.

Looking back on my career, I have been blessed to see the world, visit four continents as a wrestler, become a name and drawing card in several promotions and stake out a legacy in the annals of wrestledom as we know it.

Russia presented a unique opportunity for me to work in the biggest country in the world.  The Independent Wrestling Federation (IWF) booked me to appear in Moscow on February 27 against a wrestler of theirs named “Big Sexy Papa” Ruslan.

Ruslan vs StarBuck Russia IWF

Ruslan put up a good fight, but he was nowhere in the physical condition that I was, and I ended up trouncing him pretty damn good by the time the dust settled.  The Russian fans took to me like a fish in water, which made for a welcome reception to the former Soviet superpower.

Judging from the public response to our match, it seems like there is a rematch brewing in the booking sheets for me to return to Russia and once again tangle another round with Ruslan, who now has a much better picture of what he is up against.  Heck, I even took his girlfriend and carried her out of the venue over my shoulder, like a true caveman, adding insult to injury.  So man up, Ruslan!  What are you going to do differently the next time that you and I meet in Moscow?

Yet for me, conquering Russia was a great way to celebrate my 20th country in the game!

This past Saturday night in Randers, Denmark, I stepped into my first cage match in my 21 years in the pro wrestling business.

Truth be told, I have been looking forward to wrestling a cage match all my life, as when I was a teenager, I used to watch tons of these kinds of matches on television.  I was enamored by the cage match above all other kinds of “gimmick” matches in pro wrestling.

I recall sitting back and seeing the NWA [National Wrestling Alliance] put on the War Games double cage matches in the summers between 1987-1989 as part of the Great American Bash July-August national tours.  I remember Ric Flair falling to Ronnie Garvin in a cage match in Detroit back in the latter half of 1987, only to win it back in a cage re-match at Starrcade that very same year in Chicago.  Then there was Hulk Hogan vs. “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndoff inside of a steel cage on WWF’s Saturday Night’s Main Event on NBC, as I would stay up way past my curfew back in those days to watch spellbound as the muscular heroes and villains battled it out inside the steel.

Alas, in 1994, I became an active professional wrestler, a raw rookie at the time with great hunger and a drive to spread my wings in this fantastic wrestling industry.  My ambition and travels would take me to places like Egypt, Japan, Poland, Estonia, Spain and many points in between, spanning 19 countries and four continents to date, before I would be able to grapple inside the structure that always caught my imagination as a strapping young lad: the steel cage.

This past Saturday night in Randers, Denmark, the dream of wrestling inside the steel cage came true, thanks to Danish Pro Wrestling [DPW].  What was originally billed and slated to be me vs. multi-time Danish wrestling champion Chaos, was changed just two weeks prior to the event as me vs. The Beast from Sweden, and Chaos vs. Mr. Anderson from TNA (ex-WWE, Ken Kennedy).

Beast slams StarBuck

As I have extensively documented here on my website and blog, I have been actively training and coaching The Beast since February of this year, as the Swedish phenom has taken the wrestling world in the Nordics by storm.  I understood that I was prepping a dangerous man with all the tools to be a mega-star in the industry, at 1.93m tall and 115kg of pure muscle.  I never saw the inevitable day coming this quickly, when I would have to step into the ring to face my prized protege, but I took to the change of plans like an old pro would and should.  Win, lose or draw, it was just business this past Saturday when The Beast and I stepped into that steel cage to do battle.

StarBuck forearms Beast

I have to say that with 21 years in the game under me, I had the decided veteran’s advantage, which played greatly into my favor against the relative inexperience of The Beast.  However, what he lacked for in experience, The Beast more than made up for in aggression and quickness.  For a man that stands 1.93m tall, this guy moves like a panther.  It was quite challenging to negate his agility and speed, and I had to pull a few old hat tricks to get the duke in the end.  And yes, you read and understood that right: StarBuck beat The Beast inside of the steel cage when all was said and done.

This was The Beast’s first pinfall loss since debuting this past February in pro wrestling.  However, even as The Beast himself knows, there is no shame in falling to time-tested, world-traveled veteran like myself.  With more experience and miles down the line, it very well might be another story.  Yet, this past weekend, history was made.  The Beast found out that all men are mortal, and for every predator out there, there is another animal that will take them down.  This is what we call the law of the jungle.

StarBuck pins The Beast

So summa summarum, all my respect goes to The Beast for putting up the fight of his career so far.  This was nothing personal, just business.  The Beast was put on the spot by DPW when the promotion changed plans from StarBuck vs. Chaos to StarBuck vs. The Beast.  I do not have a personal agenda or beef with The Beast, and this cage match and its result does not pose any issue for me in my dealings with the man.

However, I do have an issue with Chaos.  Not only did he prefer to disrespect me by choosing to change the advertised card from StarBuck vs. Chaos in the cage to Mr. Anderson vs. Chaos, but DPW also rubbed that salt of this swerve into my open wound by putting me in the cage with them as special referee after my match against The Beast.  I barely had time to even drink before officials shoved a referee’s shirt in my face and told me to gear up and go back out to officiate the main event between Chaos and Anderson.  Being the pro that I am, I suited up and went out to do my job.

Referee StarBuck

However, I did not let sleeping dogs lie.  When Chaos hit his trademark moonsault on Anderson, I counted one, two … and then nothing.  I simply got up and turned around, showing everyone that if I was shafted in my scheduled and advertised match Denmark’s most beloved superstar, then I could play the game also.  Chaos took exception to my actions, as I knew he would, and in turn, I superkicked him into oblivion, putting him down for Anderson to claim the winning pinfall.

So the bottom line is this: Chaos still has a date with destiny with his old nemesis StarBuck.  He might have engineered the card to stroke his own ego this past weekend, but now, he has a little thorn in his side also.  Sooner or later, Chaos is going to have to step into that ring with me, because his hurt pride won’t let this one go.  And next time, there will be no change of plans at the last minute.

Ken Anderson wins

(Photos by Jytte Kristensen)

Wow … I got the news about a week back, that my upcoming, highly-anticipated cage match – the first of my long wrestling career – would be changed from me facing multi-time Danish champion Chaos, to me facing the breakout rookie star whom I have trained over the course of this year, Sweden’s hottest new property, The Beast!

The Beast stares down Harley Rage in a big match in Gothenburg, Sweden

The Beast stares down Harley Rage in a big match in Gothenburg, Sweden

I receive this news with mixed emotions. Firstly, I have taken a vested interest in prepping and coaching The Beast for his trek from the submission wrestling and MMA field into the world of pro wrestling. I took The Beast on as my pet project, proving that under my coaching, I could mold a superstar out of the man. I saw a world of potential in the guy when Stockholm wrestling promoter Chris Salhgren sent him to me for training at the beginning of this year. After all, he had an impressive resume already built up by the time that he was sent my way.

The Beast had gone to a time-limit draw in MMA against Sweden’s top export in that sport, Alexander Gustafsson, only to lose narrowly by judge’s decision. He had been a top star on the Swedish version of the reality competition show Gladiators, and he had nabbed the bronze medal in the 2014 Swedish national submission wrestling championships. In other words, I had one hell of an athlete to work with in my quest to mold him into a pro wrestling powerhouse.

The Beast

I have to admit: I didn’t see this one coming. I’ve even formulated a friendship in addition to my mentorship with the man. I have seen first-hand how disciplined and strong this guy is. It’s downright scary. I have a lot of respect for The Beast, and I am sure that the feeling is mutual.

However, on August 22 in Randers, Denmark, I have been scheduled to meet this man inside of a 16-foot high steel cage, the first such match of my long and storied wrestling career. In truth, I have waited my entire life to wrestle inside of the cage. Ever since I was a youth, the cage matches between Ric Flair and Ronnie Garvin, Hulk Hogan and Paul Orndorff, the War Games matches of late 1980s NWA lore and such have been amongst my favorites. Before the eventual day comes that I have to hang my boots, one of my penultimate goals has been to grapple inside the cage, and now that day is here. But I never expected it to be against someone that I took on as my personal project.

The coach and the protege.

The coach and the protege.

Initially, I was slated to face and old foe that I have grappled against many times in the past in Chaos. He and I have battled it out many times, and our matches have always been slobberknockers. I was firmly in the understanding that he and I would make wrestling history on August 22 in Denmark. However, just a week back, those plans went out the window, as the Danish Pro Wrestling [DPW] booking committee decided to change the card and put former TNA/WWE star Mr. Anderson (Ken Kennedy) against Chaos, with me against The Beast under them.

Now that’s all fine and dandy, I really have no problem with that. However, this does mean a change in my personal approach and coaching as it pertains to The Beast. He has now become a foe, an adversary, regardless of how indirectly that all transpired. I simply cannot afford to walk into the cage on August 22 against this man and teach him all that I know. That simply would not make any sense nor would it work in my favor.

I've faced big men like the executioner-like Pyöveli Petrov, who have fallen to finishers like my superkick (photo: Jarmo Katila)

I’ve faced big men like the executioner-like Pyöveli Petrov, who have fallen to finishers like my superkick (photo: Jarmo Katila)

From here on out, The Beast is on his own. I’ve given him the foundational tools that he needs to work with. However, come August 22 in Randers, Denmark, it will be a trial by fire for The Beast. Sure, he might have me outweighed by almost 20kg. He’s got a good 15cm height advantage on me. He’s much more powerful than me, he’s arguably more explosive and his reach exceeds mine. Yet, with all of these things against me, there are some things that he doesn’t have over ol’ StarBuck.

Firstly, The Beast does not have the experience that I have. I’ve been all around the world, a champion all over. I’ve faced them all, from big to small, both rookies and vets. I’ve learned to navigate through all kinds of waters. Secondly, I have a diverse bag of tools in my repertoire to draw from. I am not a one-trick pony. I can spot an opening anywhere, and I will not fail to expose a weakness when I see one. Thirdly, I have only taught The Beast what he needs to know, as in the role of the student he has been on a need-to-know basis. In the initial stages of his career, he needs to grasp the basics. Right now, The Beast owns a very rudimentary set of tools. I wouldn’t have done him any favors, had I force-fed him more knowledge than he could chew at any given point. That puts me in the driver’s seat, despite the imminent threat that he poses on the surface going into this huge cage match.

August 22 is going to be monumental in both of our careers. For me, it will be my first cage match, one that I have looked forward to all of my career. For The Beast, it will be the supreme test for him, as he will have to face his mentor before being ready and equipped enough to tackle my kind of professional experience.

Whatever happens on August 22, I just want The Beast to understand that it’s nothing personal. This is just business. Let the chips fall where they may.